Agency prosecuted by MOM for 'insensitive advertising' of foreign domestic workers

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has prosecuted SRC Recruitment (SRC) and one of its employment agency (EA) personnel, Erleena Binte Mohd Ali, for insensitive advertising of foreign domestic workers (FDWs). SRC’s licence has been suspended while Erleena's has been de-registered as an EA personnel.

The advertisements were placed between 1 September and 17 September 2018, on online marketplace Carousell, casting the FDWs in an undignified light, according to the press statement. Each party faces 49 counts of advertising FDWs in a manner akin to a commodity, as well as 50 counts of failing to ensure that SRC’s name and licence number are reflected in the advertisements. In total, SRC faces 144 charges while Erleena faces 99 charges.

According to MOM, these offences are under the Employment Agencies Act, and if convicted, they may be fined up to SG$5,000 or jailed up to six months or both.

In a statement to Marketing, Carousell's spokesperson said it "strictly prohibits" any form of advertising that involves human beings. "We are committed to building an ecosystem that places integrity as priority and are continually improving our technologies for early detection of prohibited listings. We also worked closely with the authorities to help with the investigations," the spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, MOM also said in the press statement that it expects all EAs to "exercise sensitivity" when marketing their services and exercising their duty of care towards their clients, including FDWs. "There are established guidelines on responsible advertising which are well publicised, including on the MOM website, and which EAs are expected to adhere to," it added in the statement. Members of the public with information on EAA infringements are also urged to report the matter to MOM.

The incident first came to light on 14 September, when MOM said in a Facebook post that it is aware of cases where FDWs are being "marketed inappropriately" on Carousell. It added that it is investigating those cases and have arranged for the listings to be removed.

"Advertising FDWs like commodities is unacceptable and an offence under Section 11(1)(c) of the Employment Agencies Act, which states that an EA should not act in a manner likely to be detrimental to the interests of its clients. If found guilty, an EA will face demerit points and have its licence suspended or revoked," the post said. 

Shortly after on 19 September, MOM issued a statement indicating that SRC was behind the advertisements marketing FWDs on Carousell and has been served with a notice of licence suspension and can no longer emplace any new FDWs.

Commissioner for Employment Agencies, Kevin Teoh, said MOM is committed to protecting the well-being of FDWs in Singapore.

"We strongly condemn the advertising of FDW services in an undignified manner. Advertising FDWs on an internet platform meant for trading goods is completely inappropriate and unacceptable. Such an act is an offence under the EAA. The Ministry takes a very serious view on this matter, and we will not hesitate to take prosecution actions on errant EAs," Teoh added.